An Open Letter to Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State

Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Secretary of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Whitehall
London SW1A 2AH

Monday 22nd April 2002Thank you for agreeing to meet us today to hear our concerns and frustrations at our Government’s relative inaction regarding the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of Ariel SharonMichael Ben – Yair, Israel’s Attorney General in the mid 1990s, recently described the Palestinian Intifaada as a “war of national liberation” adding “we enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities we established an apartheid regime.” (Quoted in the Guardian p21 on 11 April 2002).

In the House of Commons recently, the veteran Labour MP and long time friend of Israel, Gerald Kaufman, called Sharon a “war criminal.” Sharon’s war crimes in Shabra and Chatilla (1982) are well documented, and have already been established by Israel’s own Kahan Commission investigation.

And now he is at it again. He has unleashed unprecedented reign of terror across the West Bank and Gaza, killing hundreds or maybe thousands, including children, women and old people, demolishing refugee camps of people who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948 and 1967. Mosques and churches have also been targeted. Israel today arrogantly ignores all international laws, conventions and issues of Human Rights, and continues to violate more UN resolutions than any other country has ever done.

Many in Britain, Muslims and non-Muslims, find it unbelievable that in such circumstances, rather than taking stern action against Israel, government ministers, including yourself, have pleaded for sympathy for Israel and the position it is in! The fact that the government has also stood against the rest of Europe when the EU moved to impose sanctions on Israel, and when the UN Human Rights Commission chose to censure Israel on Jenin, is of extreme concern to us. For the sake of the pro Israeli lobby we in this country seemingly have sacrificed our principles of natural justice and speak out for the oppressed when human right abuses are perpetrated.

It is totally ineffective to ask the Palestinians to renounce violence and call for a cease-fire, at a time when their hands are tied, the infrastructure has been destroyed and they are still suffering the indignities of an illegal military occupation. When civilians are subjected daily to the most cruel violence by one of the most powerful armies of the world, whose power is reinforced by both diplomatic and military support from Britain and the United States, how can we as a country continue to claim to be supporting the case of justice in a supposed “war against terrorism”? Nothing illustrates the Palestinians hopeless situation more than their use of human bombs – a weapon of last resort for the weak and powerless. The world has placed them powerless and defenceless on a killing field at the mercy of a man with a well known and established penchant for killing Palestinians.

British Muslims want to know why our Government was keen to take action against General Pinochet for his human right abuses, but turns blind eye those of Ariel Sharon. And why is the Government so desperate to attack Iraq for flouting the UN resolutions, but is neither willing, nor able to do the same against Israel for flouting even more UN resolutions than any other country in the UN’s history. Is this not double standards and hypocrisy?

We urge you to take into account the concerns of all decent human beings world-wide and for the sake of common decency and humanity take firm and resolute action against the Israeli state and its war criminals since genocide has taken place. When good men keep silent that is when evil has won. Our silence is deafening. Europe and Britain must show its mettle and punish Israel as Ann Clwyd MP has said.

Israel must withdraw immediately and allow a UN team of Peacekeepers in the Occupied Territories, freeze all settlements and dismember existing settlements and comply with UN resolutions. The recent Saudi Plan needs to be supported and a Palestinian state established with Al Quds as its capital.

Your actions could pull this region out of the brink of disaster since otherwise an even greater tragedy will surely unfold.

Yours sincerely, Yousuf Bhailok
Secretary General – Muslim Council of Britain

Lord Patel of Blackburn
Iqbal Sacranie – UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs
Syed Aziz Pasha – Union of Muslim Organisations
Ibrahim Master – Lancashire Council of Mosques
Mustafa Jaffer – The World Federation of KSIMC
Sher Khan – Islamic Society of Britain
Abdul Kader Malek – Indian Muslim Federation UK
Mohammad Sawalha – Muslim Association of Britain
Chowdhury Mueen Uddin – Islamic Foundation
Tanzeem Wasti – Muslim Council of Britain
Hany El-Banna – Islamic Relief